Panthers’ late efforts sink against Pirates
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
As high school football in Indiana entered the final third of the regular season, Corydon Central looked to build on a great mid-season run.
After getting their first victory since 2020 at Scottsburg, the Panthers turned that schneid into a winning streak with victories over Mid-Southern Conference-foes Eastern (Pekin) and Salem. Having gotten back to the .500 mark since the start of the season, the Panthers tried to put a fourth straight win on the ledger in Week 7.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Week 7 saw them travel to Dutch Reis Field, also known as “The Boneyard,” in Charlestown. The Panthers seemed unnerved defensively to start the game when the Pirates exploded for 26 points in the first quarter. Despite a number of touchdowns and some clutch defensive plays, the game of catch up was too much for the Panthers to overcome as their winning streak fell beneath the waves, 42-27.
The Pirates took little time to score on the game’s opening drive, needing only five plays before quarterback Clay McClelland found Jake Ottersbach for a 21-yard touchdown pass. Almost five minutes passed before McClelland took matters into his own hands, taking the rock to the house himself for a two-yard rushing score.
Logan Harvey added to the Pirates’ early assault with less than 2-1/2 minutes left in the quarter with a three-yard rushing touchdown. Not satisfied with such a large early margin, the Pirates swatted the punt attempt of Panthers’ sophomore kicker Bryce Gerlach before McClelland located Zander Morris on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds remaining to give the Pirates a 26-0 lead by the end of the opening period.
“We didn’t play our brand of football, and we came out sluggish. When you play a good team like that and spot them the way we spotted in the first quarter, you just dig a hole that can’t dig yourself out of,” Panthers’ skipper Aaron Humphrey said.
While their defense faltered in the first quarter, the Panthers tried to redeem themselves with a solid offensive performance in the second quarter. It began a little over two minutes into the quarter when the senior duo of quarterback Tyler Fessel and wide receiver Jalen Fowler connected for a 31-yard touchdown pass. Much like his counterpart on the Pirates, Fessel personally handled the second score of the period when he ran the ball in for an eight-yard rushing score.
The Panthers’ second-quarter momentum was halted after a snap when senior safety Tyler Stark suffered an injury on a hit, resulting in being carried off on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a medical facility for further evaluation. The minutes-long stoppage played into the Pirates’ favor as McClelland ran the ball for a two-yard rushing touchdown before connecting with Ottersbach for a two-point conversion, sending both sides to the locker rooms with a 34-14 Pirates’ edge.
The Pirates found themselves in prime position to add to their lead in the third quarter when they got into the Panthers’ red zone. Instead of another touchdown pass, Fessel came through defensively, intercepting McClelland’s pass in the end zone before running more than an acre toward the opposing house for a 100-yard return. Fessel added a fourth touchdown to his night when he connected with junior wide receiver Wes Taylor for a 13-yard passing touchdown to cut the Pirates’ advantage to 34-27.
“I was watching film and noticed that (Charlestown) likes running a lot of slants, and I was ready for it,” Fessel said.
The Panthers’ defense came through big to start the final quarter, turning a 3rd and short on their 38 into a turnover on downs. Any possible momentum was shattered on the next play when Fessel attempted to throw the ball under pressure, but the “throw” was ruled a fumble that was recovered by the Pirates’ defense. A few timely penalties despite another defensive stop led to a back-breaking 25-yard rushing touchdown for McClelland to seal the Pirates’ 42-27 victory.
“(The officials) just made some calls on things that they saw and I didn’t see, which happens from time to time, but there were three big, game-changing calls that didn’t go our way, and I hope they go our way next time,” Humphrey said.
Despite the loss, Fessel had another excellent night in the air, notching 225 yards on a 21-for-38 effort. He contributed to all four touchdowns, including a pair of scores on the ground despite running for -27 yards. Senior running back Anthony Martin ran 17 times for 75 yards, while Fowler led the receiving corps with 79 yards on seven carries.
As the Panthers go into Week 8, the only team to defeat the Pirates so far this year, they will have some questions regarding player personnel. Alongside the aforementioned Stark, Fowler left the game in the third quarter after a hit that left him down on the Panthers’ sideline.
“It’s tough to lose those guys, but that’s also part of the sport,” Humphrey said. “It’s always next man up, and I thought the two guys that came in and played for both of those young men did a great job. Hopefully, Stark and Fowler will be all good and be back next week.”
The Panthers (3-4, 3-3 MSC) will head to Clarksville on Friday for their final road game of the regular season when they confront Providence (5-1). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.